793.94/9926: Telegram

The Consul at Hong Kong (Donovan) to the Secretary of State

Following from Nanking via Canton by mail.

“593, September 3, 1 p.m. Shanghai’s 630, September 1, 8 p.m.5 carries the announcement of the Japanese Army’s intention systematically to bomb all airfields, communications and military establishments throughout China, their objective being evidently to break down Chinese powers of resistance. Chinese power to resist attacks from air depends primarily upon lasting ability of pursuit planes 90 percent of which are American. It is said that these planes under constant usage are rapidly deteriorating and cannot last beyond a month without replacements or new parts. If unobtainable, Chinese resistance against air attacks will shortly collapse and Japanese planes can bomb at will. British Embassy informs me that Japanese are concerned over entry of arms through Hong Kong. If Japanese are able to close this gap in recently announced blockade, effective Chinese military resistance cannot last long.

The Generalissimo’s statement to me (reported in my 584, September 1, 8 p.m.) indicates that there is no present likelihood of peace by surrender. Taken with above-mentioned Japanese intention of using air force throughout China the statement brings us face to face with the probability that the Japanese intend to batter away at China until the country is reduced to chaos. Kidnaping of Marist fathers in hills near Peiping affords us an example of the kind of thing that can and will doubtless occur with distressing frequency in other places in China if chaos is permitted to develop.

It is not possible for us to withdraw from China all Americans now scattered throughout the interior. The result may well be that we shall find our nationals and their interests engulfed in the chaos which the Japanese seem ready and willing to create.

Sooner or later the world must, in my opinion, take cognizance of what is happening in China and act for its amelioration. It cannot deny to China its right to defend itself against attacks which are being conducted entirely in its waters and upon its soil and which are evidently intended completely to influence Chinese control over its people and destiny as a nation. If the powers fail to condemn this brutal, unscrupulous and merciless blotting out of Chinese Government control within its own territories the reaction within China may well be disastrous. Chinese ability or interest in protecting the interests and lives of foreign nationals may vanish.

Japan is sacrificing much, it is true, by abandoning all of its interests in China. It hopes, however, to win a greater prize by complete and undisputed domination of what remains. We can expect nothing in such an eventuality.

[Page 514]

I bring these thoughts to the attention of the Department because I feel that the march of events must inevitably bring us sooner or later where we must consider whether we are to abandon all hope of saving something, even our self respect, from the wreckage of 150 years of cultural and commercial efforts in China.

Japanese pronouncements have justified more than a suspicion that Japan’s present operations are actuated to a large extent by an ambition to replace western influence and interests in China with Japanese and it would seem that this rooting out of our vested interests demands attention simultaneously with our solicitude to avoid possible implication in the struggle. In fact, a too complaisant surrender now may precipitate a more violent effort at recovery later. Johnson”

  1. Not printed.